Do Blog Ads Really Turn Off Readers?

Some bloggers worry about running blog ads on their site, fearing they’ll scare off their audience. For me, I think it depends on the ads themselves.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been using Google AdSense to display a couple of blog ads on my site.

I debated for a while before actually flipping the switch to blog ads. My first real experience with ads on a blog was way back in my AOL Journal days. This was during this blog’s first two years of existence.

What’s different about that experience was that AOL decided it was going to suddenly place large banner ads on everyone’s blogs without their input. What was even worse was that the bloggers didn’t get any percentage of revenue.

None. Zip. Nada.

It wasn’t the ads themselves that soured some people’s notion of blog ads: it was the way in which the ads were deployed and the lack of input from the people who provided the content to the blogs. We couldn’t, for example, say that we didn’t want certain types of ads — such as pharmaceutical ads or ads for quick loan companies — to be allowed on our blog.

We couldn’t ban specific businesses from advertising on our site, either. Think about that for a minute: if you were having a dispute with a major company, you could be sharing your experience while advertising for that very company appeared right over your post.

Are blog ads really a bad idea?

I’ve visited a few sites that warn bloggers to avoid them like the proverbial plague. But when you read past the headlines, the primary reason these blogging “experts” advise against ads comes down to money

They’re a poor source of revenue. I can’t argue that. Using Google AdSense, I might expect to make a few bucks a month on those ads. That’s not a lot of money. If I were to look at it like an ad sales professional might, I could easily come to the conclusion that the fees are far too low. Granted, this site wouldn’t give advertisers the impressions that a site like Huffington Post would, but I still have a decent size audience for a blog that doesn’t always follow the “rules” people insist you should follow to the letter to earn a supposed six-figure income.

But if the top issue these experts advising against blog ads is the amount of money the blogger makes from them, then the ads themselves aren’t really the problem.

These same experts who say blog ads make a blogger look “amateurish” argue that other kinds of revenue-generating tricks, like affiliate advertising, are perfectly okay.

Affiliate advertising, incidentally, works like this: you review or even mention in passing a product that you’ve enjoyed. You supply a link to a site that sells that product so that your readers can order one for themselves. The link contains a code that gives you a commission for each sale.

The Federal Trade Commission requires websites to be clear and upfront about any possible revenue possibility. That’s designed to make the fact that you’re making money with every sale more transparent. Most bloggers I’ve seen who use affiliate advertising make their revenue potential more than clear.

But it’s still a case of a blogger trying to make money off his or her readers.

It’s just that affiliate advertising and other forms of revenue generation, like selling eBooks or other services through your website, seem to get a pass.

So why is one kind of ad revenue ‘acceptable’ while another is not?

Perhaps it comes down to how “worst-case scenarios” seem to operate. I chose a rather conservative layout for my AdSense ads.

I allow two ads per page: one at the top, one on the sidebar.

I could have allowed multiple ads per post. I could have even embedded multiple ads in the middle of posts. That, for me, is more than a little excessive.

On the other hand, I’ve visited sites where ads are everywhere. Ads crowd and clutter sidebars. Individual posts display ads every few paragraphs.

And on top of all of that, constant pop-up ads interfere with the reader’s experience. Many of those pop-ups, unfortunately, promote the site you’re already reading, not a sponsor.

But an ad is an ad.

If Google AdSense pays so little, you might well wonder, why do I even bother?

That’s a fair question.

The fairest answer I can give you is that some revenue is better than no revenue. Either way, I go into the red every year when it comes to paying for hosting for this site. That’s been the case since 2007 when I moved this blog to its current location, a domain I own with hosting service I pay for each month.

I’d love to reach a point at which I make more than it costs to maintain this site — wouldn’t we all?!? 

But in the meantime, I prefer to go slightly less into the red each year by having a little revenue from blog ads than having none. 

Your mileage may vary. And that’s important.

One of the things I try to be consistent about when it comes to blogging is a simple concept: Consider your audience.

A part of keeping your audience at the top of your mind when you plan a change is considering how you’d react if a blog you followed made the same change.

That doesn’t mean all of your readers would respond the way you would, but at the same time, if they’re your regular readers, you seem already to have made some sort of connection with them.

So perhaps it’s not entirely unreasonable that you attempt to put yourself in their place in this instance.

As a blog reader, I’m not automatically turned off by a couple of ads on the page.

I understand from 14 years of experience in running a blog that it is not a free exercise. It costs money.

If the blog owner decides to place a few blog ads on the page, that’s not the end of the world for me. I don’t mind affiliate ads, either.

But if my reading is interrupted because of multiple pop-ups, I’m going to leave. In fact, I left a site midway through reading story after the third pop-up appeared within a window of about 30 seconds.

No website owner should reasonably expect the audience to tolerate that kind of intrusion.

In your heart, you must agree with me. If you’ve managed to make it this far into this post, obviously the two little ads I’ve placed on this page haven’t bothered you, either.

You, as a blogger, have to know your audience. That’s one of your top responsibilities as a website owner.

You, therefore, need to be the one to decide whether blog ads will scare your audience away. There’s no one answer here: it depends on you and your readers.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.